Setuba, Equatorial Kundu: 17 August 2040
Brigadier General Nicholas Jones, commander of U.S. ground forces, summarized how dire the situation has become:
“You’ve got over three million people displaced within the city, creating the biggest “neighborhood refugee” crisis we’ve ever seen. Twenty or so million more without power or access to fresh water. Nobody has a good count on how many are dead, but there are bodies floating in the streets. Floodwaters are so polluted and health clinics so overloaded that it’s only a matter of time before dysentery and cholera reach epidemic proportions. Criminal gangs and local insurgents are attacking the few relief convoys that manage to work their way through the flood water and debris. They steal supplies and sell whatever they don’t need on the black market. USAID’s contracted drivers are afraid to deliver supplies, even with the security escorts we’re providings. I’ve been in the Army a long time, and have never seen human suffering on this scale.”
By all accounts the UN force faces a herculean task. According to officials, the first objective is establishing security to enable medical and rescue workers to enter the sprawling slums that are home to two-thirds of the city’s 26 million residents. Government control of Setuba has steadily eroded in recent years, and large parts of the city are controlled by a loose network of organized criminal gangs who control the nation’s $14.5 billion per year illicit oil production and export trade. This massive wealth has allowed the so-called ‘petro- gangs’ to purchase large quantities of advanced weapons, sensors, combat robots, automated defense systems, and other military hardware. The true extent of the gangs’ capabilities is largely unknown. The petro- gangs also provide safe harbor, equipment, and training to a growing domestic insurgency led by remnants of the Boko Haram rebel group, which was thought to be under control following a violent government crackdown in 2030 that was widely condemned by international human rights organizations.
In addition to the security mission, Chinese and American troops will also work with local Kunduan security forces and an African Union response team to conduct search and rescue operations, assist with delivering relief supplies, and evacuate citizens trapped in flooded areas. The U.S. Army is establishing massive camps in the north of the country to house people displaced by the flooding, memories of the refugee crisis in 2015 on many people’s minds. However, evacuation efforts have been complicated by mudslides, flooding, and insurgent attacks intent on taking advantage of the power vacuum.
Speaking to reporters from a temporary command center aboard the CNS Shandong on Tuesday, the co-commander of the UN peacekeeping force, Chinese Lieutenant General Li Weijun, expressed “solidarity with the Kunduan people” and vowed to work with coalition partners and the Kunduan government to bring order and relief to Setuba and the rest of this devastated country.